We pick up our UEFA preview with Groups D-F. With 49 matches being played in September, we’ll give you three installments of previews. Our Groups A-C preview can be read here.
Let’s get right into the previews:
There were no matches played in Group D in June, so this will be the first time in 6 months we see some action. The Dutch are well ahead of the pack and could actually clinch top spot in the group and a place in Brazil on the 6th. More than likely they’ll get it done before September is over. They’re the class in this group.
It looks like Romania and Hungary should be battling for 2nd place. In our simulations, Estonia didn’t finish 2nd in a single one and Turkey finished 2nd in 12 of 1000 simulations. Conversely, Netherlands finished 1st in all 1000 simulations.
Romania vs. Hungary – Bucharest, Romania
Despite Hungary being in 2nd in the group, we think Romania has a significant edge for 2nd place. We give them a 78% chance of finishing 2nd. A big reason for that is this match in particular. Romania is just outside of our top 20. They’d be in contention for a direct qualifying spot in a number of other groups, but they’re in a tough spot with an untouchable Netherlands. The Hungarians have done well for themselves thus far, and getting a point here would be massive. Our first preview is the game of the group in September. We think the home team comes through.
Prediction: Romania by 2
Estonia vs. Netherlands – Tallinn, Estonia
This is an extremely tall task in Tallinn. Yes, that was some WGF humor. These teams have only met 3 times in their history, but Estonia has never even sniffed a point. The Dutch have won all 3 matches by multiple goals. It would be foolish to expect a different result here. Estonia did a great job getting to the play-off for EURO 2012, but this group is just too much for them. While we don’t think the Netherlands clinch their spot in Brazil here, they’ll be very close.
Prediction: Netherlands by 3
Turkey vs. Andorra – Kayseri, Turkey
Andorra is somehow still mathematically alive despite being outscored 17-0 in their 6 matches and not recording a point. They’re massively overmatched here and Turkey will strike early and often. Andorra will be eliminated here while Turkey picks up 3 points they desperately need. Not much to say other than blowout. Our predictor shows Andorra no mercy.
Prediction: Turkey by 4
This is a very competitive group, and Turkey’s 3 points will temporarily thrust them back into the mix. Here’s what the standings should look like after the 6th:
Andorra vs. Netherlands – Andorra la Vella, Andorra
Yikes. With Andorra eliminated, and Netherlands staring a trip to Brazil in the face, I’d bet the ranch on whatever the over is set at. Our predictor thinks the WGF XI may fare better against the Dutch side. Look for Andorra to be buried beneath an avalanche of goals from the Dutch as they punch their ticket to Brazil.
Prediction: Netherlands by 5… to Brazil
Romania vs. Turkey – Bucharest, Romania
We mentioned above that Turkey would be temporarily back in the mix. Here comes the downer after the high of beating up on Andorra. You can’t beat up on the little guy and expect to get away with it. Romania has their second consecutive home match against their direct competition, and if they can get through this one with 3 points, they should be home free to the 2nd place play-off as they finish at Andorra and home to Estonia. Knowing the situation, Turkey can’t come up empty here, and even a draw may not be enough to pass Romania. It would truly be a shock if Turkey got anything out of this match. They’re not the team they were just a few years ago.
Prediction: Romania by 2
Hungary vs. Estonia – Budapest, Hungary
More than anything, Hungary needs this one to keep pace with Romania. While Romania finishes with the two bottom teams in Group D, Hungary still has to travel to the Netherlands. Things are looking bleak, but anything can happen. This should be it for Estonia. With a very, very tough September slate, they should succumb to the top teams and be sent their marching orders. It may be time to start focusing on EURO 2016.
Prediction: Hungary by 2
With the Dutch moving on to Brazil, it looks like it should come down to Romania and Hungary for the 2nd place spot. If Romania is able to take all 6 points here, they’ll be in outstanding shape to move on. It’s up to Hungary and Turkey to put a stop to it, as each gets a shot at the Romanians. Here’s what we project things to look like.
It looks like Switzerland is starting to create some space between themselves and the rest of the group, but 2nd place should be wide open for the taking. Even last place Cyprus is only 6 points behind 2nd place. These teams are all extremely close, and nothing is a given. Despite being in 4th, we still like Norway to progress to the play-off, but not by much.
Slovenia vs. Albania – Ljubljana, Slovenia
We had Slovenia written off heading into the June matches, but they’ve shown they’re not giving up the fight to return to their 2010 glory. Albania, meanwhile, couldn’t hold on against Norway and really hurt their chances of advancing. This one should be very close. Slovenia has been playing better of late, but our predictor still can’t give them the edge. We think this is another one that ends up all square.
Norway vs. Cyprus – Oslo, Norway
We think the standings are a little misleading here. Despite being only 4 points ahead of Cyprus, we feel Norway is clearly the better team here. We have over 100 spots in our rankings between these teams, and the home field advantage will play a big part. This is the easiest it’ll be for Norway the rest of the way, so they’ll need to take advantage of this opportunity here. Look for them to take all 3 and push Cyprus to the brink of elimination.
Prediction: Norway by 3
Switzerland vs. Iceland – Bern, Switzerland
It wasn’t too long ago that Iceland looked like a threat to reach Brazil. They were a great story and looked like the next underdog to make noise. But they couldn’t get the job done at home against Slovenia, and now the road gets much tougher. Switzerland is our top ranked team in this group and even pushing top 10 in the world. Iceland is certainly better than their initial draw would indicate, but they’re just not at the level to come away with something here. Our predictor loves Switzerland.
Prediction: Switzerland by 3
Switzerland and Norway should take care of business here, and the Slovenia-Albania match will have a massive impact on the final standings. If they do draw, it will be huge for Norway. We expect Norway to jump from 4th to 2nd on the 6th.
Cyprus vs. Slovenia – Nicosia, Cyprus
If things shake out the way we expect on the 6th, Cyprus will need to win this match to stay alive. It’s not entirely out of the question here, but it will certainly not be an easy task. Slovenia has to capitalize on this opportunity. They proved our predictor wrong in June, and it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if they were to defeat Albania. If they do, they could possibly leap all the way to 2nd with a win in Nicosia. We don’t anticipate a high scoring affair here, and Cyprus should put up a good fight, but it probably will not be enough to hold off the Slovenians.
Prediction: Slovenia by 1
Norway vs. Switzerland – Oslo, Norway
It’s entirely possible that Switzerland can clinch a spot in Brazil here. And given the way things shake out in the rest of the group, you’ll see below where they stand. This match is the reason right here why FIFA Rankings are so important. Norway was in Pot 1 and drew Switzerland as the toughest opponent in the group. Now they get them at home and can continue their run to Brazil. But a ranking can only take you so far. You must deliver on the pitch, and that is something Norway has failed to do in qualifying. We think they draw the short end of the stick here.
Prediction: Switzerland by 1
Iceland vs. Albania – Reykjavik, Iceland
Our predictor is on the fence here. Catch it one day and it’ll predict an Iceland win. The next it’ll predict a draw. This matchup should be very close all around and is absolutely critical for both team’s chances of reaching Brazil. Especially with Slovenia bearing down, each team knows it must get points. If Switzerland can defeat Norway, this will be an even bigger door opening to slip in. Iceland failed to deliver in June, but we’ll jump on the back of the predictor here. Hopefully Albania doesn’t travel with flares.
Prediction: Iceland by 1
With the results above, Switzerland would officially clinch a spot in the World Cup. 2nd place would be completely wide open as 4 teams would be within 2 points of each other heading into October. No matter what, this is going to come down to the final matchday. Should be a fun one to watch. Here’s what we project the standings to look like:
This group is completely out of whack. Games are being played whenever teams feel like it. Northern Ireland scored a massive home win over Russia on August 14 during the friendly window to at least give themselves a fighting chance. We had Russia at 96% to win the group, but after their loss they dropped to only 70%. This was a huge result for Portugal.
Northern Ireland vs. Portugal – Belfast, Northern Ireland
Sure, why not? Northern Ireland scored one of the biggest results in recent memory and they get rewarded with a match against Portugal. At least for them they get to play at home. But while Russia has sat on their hands and scored 1 goal at a time, Portugal is not messing around. It would truly something if Northern Ireland was able to pull off another stunning upset, but we just can’t see it. Portugal went off at -1000 against Northern Ireland at home and cost WGF a massive parlay by playing to a 1-1 draw in a monsoon. I know I haven’t forgot, and I’m sure they haven’t either. They’ll take care of business here.
Prediction: Portugal by 2
Russia vs. Luxembourg – Kazan, Russia
Thanks, UEFA. It’s almost like the Northern Ireland loss was planned. Now they come home and get to face tiny Luxembourg on home soil. Russia should clean house here and eliminate Luxembourg from qualifying in the process. Luxembourg has actually pulled out 3 draws in qualifying, so that must be considered a minor success to not come up completely empty. Our predictor likes to get wet, and apparently has no problem going in with a wild result.
Prediction: Russia by 5
Israel vs. Azerbaijan – Ramat Gan, Israel
This is the only UEFA match being played on the 7th, and yet again Group F is making it difficult on everyone else. This really is the last gasp for both of these teams. Azerbaijan would be officially eliminated with anything less than a win. If Israel cannot come up with 3 points, their qualifying campaign is as good as done. We have Israel inside our top 50, but with Russia and Portugal in the group, that’s probably not going to be good enough. We do think Israel should be able to get by Azerbaijan and delay their inevitable exit.
Prediction: Israel by 2
With Azerbaijan and Luxembourg out, this group will start to clear up a little. In fact, if these results hold, Northern Ireland would also be eliminated. Portugal and Russia should pull away to battle it out between them soon. The standings are anticipated to look like this:
|Northern Ireland||6||-5||thru 7||*Eliminated|
Luxembourg vs. Northern Ireland – Luxembourg, Luxembourg
With both of these teams assumed to be knocked out at this point, there shouldn’t be much of note here. Our predictor is probably selling Northern Ireland a little short here, but in a meaningless game, who knows?
Russia vs. Israel – St. Petersburg, Russia
Finally, the match of September in Group F. We anticipated Russia being further ahead, but with their loss to Northern Ireland, this match picks up even more importance. In all likelihood, if Israel gets nothing out of this match, they’re pretty much toast. Given that Israel follows this one up with a trip to Portugal while Russia gets Luxembourg and Azerbaijan, this game obviously means everything for Israel. It seems that Israel is always knocking on the door, but just can’t break through due to a tough group. Last time it was Greece and Switzerland. This time Russia and Portugal. Our predictor thinks Russia has their way with Israel, but we think they put up a pretty good fight.
Prediction: Russia by 2
Portugal and Azerbaijan are idle on the 10th and finally let the rest of the group catch up. That three horse race we spoke of will be a two horse race if Israel can’t get something in St. Petersburg. The battle between Russia and Portugal should be a great one to watch. It’s truly a shame they don’t get to play each other again for a trip to Brazil. We thinks will look like this:
|Northern Ireland||7||-5||thru 8||*Eliminated|
We hope you enjoyed our preview of Groups D, E and F in UEFA. We’ll conclude our three part series with a preview of the final 3 groups soon. We’ll be active on Twitter @We_Global, so stay tuned! Thanks for reading!